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TheStreet Open House

Google's Nexus 5: What to Expect

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In the last couple of weeks, the first customers of Google's (GOOG) iconic Nexus 4 -- made by LG (LGL) -- have taken delivery of this long-anticipated smartphone. According to Google's web site, the wait if you order one now is five weeks.

So what does this mean, now that the Nexus 4 has just hit the market?

Time to speculate about the Nexus 5, of course!

But first: A little bit of history and background:

HTC made the first Nexus, then Samsung made the next Nexus devices and now LG is making the Nexus 4. They were typically released in the October-January timeframe, once a year.

Let's make one stipulation, just off the bat: In my opinion, the Nexus 4 made by LG is essentially unchanged from its predecessor, the Galaxy Nexus made by Samsung. Yes, I know it's got a better camera, and the battery isn't removable -- but essentially, it really did not move the hardware ball forward materially.

The one area that will eventually prove useful was the change in CPU (the main computer processor) -- from one made by Texas Instruments (TI) to a more powerful one made by Qualcomm (QCOM). Over time, the headroom provided by this new faster CPU will likely provide some benefit -- once the software has caught up.

As it stands, however, the improvement in CPU performance is a little bit like buying the Porsche Carrera S instead of the regular base Carrera. No normal person can tell the difference in performance, because the base model is already plenty fast enough.

So here is conclusion number 1: If you already have the Galaxy Nexus, which became available a year ago, there is in my opinion no reason to upgrade to the Nexus 4. One year passed, and essentially all the progress was in terms of the Android operating system (going from 4.0 to 4.1 and now 4.2) and in Google's ever-improving, all-encompassing, and generally superior cloud services. Not the hardware.

In other words, we have mostly hit a bit of a smartphone hardware wall. The hardware doesn't really need to become more capable. What is needed with the hardware is to make it less expensive to manufacture. One way to cut this kind of cost is to simplify the hardware. That's different than increasing its capabilities.

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